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Economy in Brief

State Payroll Employment Growth Remained Modest in April
by Charles Steindel  May 18, 2018

The April job numbers across the states were consistent with the national figures, and show some continuing moderation in the pace of job growth. BLS reports that only three states had statistically significant growth in jobs (Texas, California, and Louisiana), though many other states posted changes in the plus columns. Texas and California are huge places, of course, and the sum of their increases amounted to nearly 79,000 jobs. The national job increase computed from the sum of the state figures was 134,900, hardly different than the 164,000 reported from the national survey. It’s possible that the oddly cold weather in April held back usual seasonal rises in employment in much of the nation.

Over the last year, job growth has been strongest in the western part of the nation, particularly the interior (Idaho, Nevada, and Utah have been the three fastest growing states). Florida, as well as Texas, have also grown strongly. The Midwest—particularly the Great Lakes manufacturing states, but also the Plains—has lagged, as have particularly energy-intensive states such as Alaska, Kentucky, West Virginia and (in the Plains) North Dakota. States in the Southeast and Northeast have generally seen job growth of 1.1 to 2.0% over the last 12 months.

The household survey numbers were broadly comparable, with only four states reporting statistically significant declines in April. Three states (California, Hawaii, and Wisconsin) set new record lows for the current unemployment rate series. There is now a wide spread in unemployment rates across the states, ranging from Hawaii’s 2.0 percent to Alaska’s 7.3 percent. Notwithstanding the Alaska figure, numbers of more northerly states (such as Main, Idaho, and North Dakota) report unemployment rates below 3 percent. New Mexico and West Virginia are the other states with unemployment rates above 5 percent (DC is also in that category). Puerto Rico reported an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent, with little change (a drop of 1,000) in payroll employment. While conditions on the island may be stabilizing a bit, there is no sign in the aggregate job data of a marked post-Maria rebound.

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